The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Archive for the ‘Internet Marketing’ Category

Deal or no deal? What’s the deal?

Looking at internet marketing for local business –,, and Preliminary observations and questions.

1. Businesses must be counting on the gift card effect, where a certain percentage of gift certificates and coupons are never used.  Betsy’s Hot Yoga in Louisville recently sold 1072 yoga class packages for $20 each through  It was a good deal with an 82% discount off  the normal price for ten 90-minute yoga classes, but impossible to deliver if all 1072 discounted enrolments show up at the same time.   

2. What’s the deal for businesses to participate?  Although the deal for buyers is spelled out online, the cost to the business for these  programs is a big secret.  It is impossible for a small business owner to evaluate the potential benefits of the programs without having some clue what the cost is.  I is necessary for a business to go through the screening process to find out.  This makes sense only if the deal is negotiated separately for each business applicant. 

3.  There seems to be an imbalance between buyers and sellers. has offered seven deals in Louisville, Kentucky during the last two months, and has offered two during the same time period.  More than 1000 buyers for each of those deals is fairly common.  The task is to recruit more businesses to participate.

 4. Both and have referral programs where consumer-users can earn rewards by referring new consumer-users to the program.  There does not seem to be any comparable referral program aimed toward recruiting businesses.

5. Recruiting local businesses to participate in these programs might be more effective if it incorporated off-line solicitations.  Many of the small local business owners I know don’t spend a lot of time  online researching the latest thing in local social media marketing.  It needs to be explained to them, but given 2 and 4 above, that isn’t going to happen.


Written by Tom Fox

08/22/2010 at 12:04 pm

Social media before web 2.0

Long before the influential people announced the birth of social media, and even before the web took off, there were Usenet discussion groups. Before the end of the 1990’s the idea of Usenet discussion groups inspired the creation of email discussion groups, such as eGroups

Yahoo! purchased eGroups for the foundation of it’s popular Yahoo! Groups, and Google purchased Deja News, an online searchable archive of Usenet groups.  Google incorporated Deja News into its own email discussion group system named Google Groups

All three of these systems still exist and are being used today.  Many of these discussion forums are wholly unmoderated, and it is nearly impossible to exclude uncivil discourse from an unmoderated Usenet group.  It was on such groups that I first learned the meaning of sockpuppet, troll, and spam.

Like Willie Sutton, who robbed banks, “Because that’s where the money is,” internet marketers were drawn to Usenet and public email list discussion groups from the start, because that’s where the people were. They quickly learned the meaning of “flame.”

There may be an effective internet marketing strategy that incorporates these discussion groups, but it would need a very high-touch / low-b.s. ratio to do any good.  One of the main benefits of Web 2.0 is the ability to easily give feedback. Usenet participants are not the least bit shy about providing helpful feedback.

Written by Tom Fox

08/21/2010 at 11:16 am

Optimizing in a shifting topography

I’m thinking specifically about web optimizing, which is much broader than search engine optimizing. That has been abbreviated to “SEO” to conceal the fact what passes under the name SEO ought to have something to do with “optimizing,” but does not.  These days SEO is magic fairy dust you buy in half-pint bottles from your local webmastery store. Or from an ebook cleverly titled, Great Wealth from Minimal Effort or Imagination.

The point is this: The web environment may be shifting faster than I am adapting to it.  I don’t have much doubt that is true. Sometimes the pace of change overwhelms my thinking, and trying to get a good grip on how the world works may not be possible.  Maybe for you too. The Myth of Web Optimization

My web optimization advice:

  1. Insist on a plan going in. Planning forces you to think about what you are doing.
  2. Expect your plan to be obsolete about the time you begin to implement it.
  3. Revise your plan but don’t change your purpose.
  4. The only cure for ignorance is learning. Incorporate your learning into your revised planning.
  5. Give it time. Instant gratification is rare.
  6. Measure everything.
  7. Don’t confuse the static with the slow moving. Count on things changing.
  8. Remember the possibility of a hysterisis effect.
  9. People are watching.  They may not care much and there may not be a lot of them at first, but somebody is always watching.
  10. Remember the bottom line.  For business web optimization, cash in hand or something similar is what’s being optimized, in theory.
  11. Fearless is good.  Careless is bad. Indifference is death.
  12. No, it’s not all about you.

Written by Tom Fox

08/18/2010 at 6:34 am

A problem with internet marketers

I’ve encountered more than a few internet marketers who were totally fascinated by the tricks and techniques of internet marketing. They love to talk about internet marketing, but they hardly ever talk about the products they sell. That is if they have anything to sell at all. Quite a few I have met don’t have anything to sell.

It’s impossible to make sense of internet marketing in the absence of a specific identifiable product or service. There’s nothing to talk about.

Written by Tom Fox

07/13/2010 at 10:04 am

Posted in Internet Marketing

We be monkey with your stuff

Why monkey with your stuff?

We monkey with your stuff because that is what we do. Because it’s possible. Si se puede.

The setup:

Except it didn’t fit!

The Squidoo Plexo sidebar widget was pre-set to a width of 200 pixels, and my blog sidebar is 250 pixels wide. Unhappy me.

The monkey:

  • So, we snoop the widget code . . .
  • and snitch the javascript . . .
  • and change the widget width . . .
  • and host the modified javascript somewhere else . . .
  • and voilà! Now we have a perfect fit! Happy me!

Oh no! Copyright police be busting down the door.


Can also place Plexo in another Squidoo lens, like here.

Written by Tom Fox

06/02/2008 at 9:52 am

Attention and imagination

A loud bang in the quiet of the night will capture your attention. Guessing if the bang is a gunshot, a firecracker, or an exploding electrical transformer is the next step after. That is the capture of imagination.

This thumbnail of a NY Times photo caught my attention today because the background seemed incongruous with the foreground, and the shadow figures looked transparent. It wasn’t until I looked at a larger version of the photo here that I understood what I was seeing.

The New York Times explained the photo simply as, “A family at a cafe in Kokand, Uzbekistan.” This excellent image has no particular relevance to the news story, except they both relate to Uzbekistan.

The photo is complex, multi-layered and engaging. It practically begs you to fire up your imagination. What is the serious young man looking at through the window? What type of meal will he and his family be served? It presents an exotic landscape.

In marketing there is much interest in devising way to grab people’s attention, and not so much thought given to what to do with attention once you have it.

It is the difference between crafting a Google AdWords ad that produces clicks, and creating a landing page that produces engagement.

Further reading:

“In other words, imagining something makes it easier to see it, just as seeing something makes it easier to imagine it.”

Imagination: Creating a New Reality, by Laura Sewall
EcoPsychology and Art by Amy Lenzo
Sacred Texts: A Common-Sense View of the Mind Cure, Chapter VI, by Laura M. Westall [1908]

Written by Tom Fox

05/29/2008 at 9:12 am

VistaPrint vs. Prints Made Easy smackdown

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recently ( May 6, 2008 ) issued a decision from a complaint brought by VistaPrint against Prints Made Easy.

In March, 2007 an over-eager and somewhat unscrupulous PR dude issued a press release on Prints Made Easy’s behalf that made false advertising claims, according to NAD’s determination.

The press release claimed the Business Cards Association of America (BCAA) awarded its annual award “Top Business Card Provider” to, which is just dandy except for the fact there is no such organization. The Business Cards Association of America does not exist. There’s more, if you want to read the whole NAD claim review.

Written by Tom Fox

05/22/2008 at 11:05 am